A much below par Albion led the statistics but survived a few close scares before going ahead late on with a brilliant finish from Bobby Zamora. No, you’re not reading a late dispatch from Leeds, your correspondent having fallen asleep after too much proper beer and being bored to sleep by Geoff Boycott lite types, you’re reading last night’s. For the second game in a row we won 2-1. For a second game in a tow we really didn’t play that well. For a second game in a row HE scored the winner, All hail the King. *bows*
Perhaps now the brass are starting to get it. Perhaps they always did. In a league as competitive as The Championship it’s all about fine margins. No one THRASHED us last season they said (apart from Derby away). Just bad luck. A bad season. That’s all. Yet here we are the following season on the twenty first of the month we never win in (except this year) and we are top, and we are undefeated. We have not THRASHED anyone. But with a manager who has plan A, B and C and strikers who can finish those fine margins have been turned in our favour. Draws where there were defeats. One goal margin wins where there were one goal margin defeats. It’s not an accident.
But this is starting to read like a normal report or even like one of last season’s rants so, without further ado, let’s go to the pub.
Being Boy-less gave me a rare opportunity to take in some of my much beloved boozers around Brighton Station. Firstly the Yeoman, a pub that had once specialised in sausages and been run by the only Warwickshire fan in Brighton and that now does a homely, friendly atmosphere. Then the Evening Star, a pub that unashamedly does BEER. One of the wonderful things about this new era at The Albion is the number of people who want to go. What I mean by that is that, back in the day, I met my football going mates at the football. They would be the familiar faces on the North Stand terraces, at away grounds (and I’m going back to the late 80s when a good trip up North would see two hundred of us turn up) and in the pubs. Now my friends from every day life want to come to football too and have also become my Brighton friends. Sure, the pretendence last night was 23k with only maybe 20k bums on seats, sure the queues for train and pie were shorter than normal (I’m not complaining) but an Albion game is still an EVENT. Town buzzed. After three pints of lovely beer so did I. Voice oiled. Game on.
Greer was out injured leaving BFG to partner Dunk. With Murphy still suspended Rosenior continued in right midfield. Else it was a very familiar looking Albion side, another reason I believe we are doing well. In this league you don’t need rotation, You need partnerships and familiarity. Just look at Burnley two seasons ago. Or Dunk and BFG last night. Yes, our back four played like strangers. OK, so Bruno had all of his usual sublime touches and attacking flair but the other three looked like they’d been shipped in from the Dog. and Duck Or the Evening Star. Bristol City noticed.
Let’s give some credit here. Bristol City were much livelier than their league position gave them credit for, and, in particular, their number 22 Jonathan Kodjia was excellent. The proverbial pain in the backside all night his use of space and excellent pass set up left back Derrick Williams, hurtling in to the box, to give them a shock lead after just 17 minutes. Obviously they used this movement and menace, and our lack of presence in defence (and increasingly in midfield where the normally excellent Stephens was having a stinker) to dominate the game right? WRONG. They sat back, invited us on to them and wasted time in annoying and obvious fashion (obvious that is to everyone except referee Iain Williamson who had a 100% massive stinker all round). This meant we dominated possession and the BBC Website statistics and that possession should have seen us level, Baldock wasteful on a one on one and then having us out of our chairs in celebration as he was put through wonderfully, controlling and producing a neat chip that was not powerful enough and was cleared off the line.
The second half was just as lively. Finally we got to go mental as Baldock got what he wanted, tapping in a brilliant Bruno run and cross to finally settle down the natives who were getting restless, my drinking buddies and me included. The second half, in fact, saw more action that a Chuck Norris movie and much of it was just as hackneyed. Luke Freeman will have no idea how he was denied a penalty and booked for diving after being brought down in the box by the BFG, with our hearts in our mouths instead of Real Ale for a change. Kodjia remained lively and Stockdale made two wonderful saves, tipping over a fierce drive and then brilliantly getting a foot to a one on one with Dunk lying in an actual sleeping bag with his jamas on. It needed tightening and Hughton made two subs in rapid sucession. Firstly Crofts came on to narrow the midfield, then Zamora for Hemed.
The latter made an immediate impact, holding the ball up and causing City problems of their own with his movement and positioning. And, so it had to be, that despite City having an excellent half, we took the lead. It was one of THOSE strikes. Ok, maybe not the volley against Halifax or the chip at Bury but classic Bobby nonetheless. We’d fashioned the chance out wide but looked to have lost it in a game of ping pong before Zamora, seemingly not even facing the right way to do it, twisted and produced the sweetest of controlled left foot volleys in to the bottom corner. Cue bedlam.
That’s the difference. Winning when we’re playing badly. Bringing ON a player who can score goals like that. Riding our luck but making it as well. Not a classic but who cares. We. Are. Top of the League. We went to the pub to celebrate.